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Why lobbying is important for dealers

Republicans, Democrats, independents . . . if they’re lawmakers in Washington, it seems they all claim they want to help small businesses. Sounds good.

But there are some fundamental facts that clearly make it more lip service than reality. And that’s why it’s important for marine dealers to be actively lobbying for our best interests. If we don’t, we get . . . well, lip service.

The upcoming 2013 American Boating Congress, which runs May 8-9 in Washington, D.C., shines a spotlight on the need for dealers, as part of a total marine industry effort, to be engaged in lobbying for favorable public policy decisions by lawmakers and regulators. Let’s face it: lawmakers usually take the road that gives big business — with big lobbyists and big bucks — the big advantages. The blatant favoritism toward the ethanol producers for E15 is a case in point. But there are even broader examples of government’s lip service to small business.

We have, for example, one of the world’s highest business tax rates. But it’s a mirage. The myriad of tax policies big business has lobbied to get into the code are so favorable the actual taxes paid, if any, are nominal. Witness General Electric or Boeing or Verizon — all profitable, but paying no tax. I doubt there are many, if any, dealers who pay less than the full tax because as small-business owners we don’t have an army of tax accountants to game the system or lobbyists to push for dealer-specific tax breaks.

Our industry has professional lobbyists, of course. Most notable are the lobbyists from the NMMA and MRAA, all located in Washington. They continue to do a great job on legislative and regulatory fronts in spite of the fact that our industry is certainly not considered a big one. Sadly, I believe we tend to think that because we do have industry lobbyists, they’ll “handle it” and our work is done when we pay our association dues.

But that’s our failing. To assume we don’t have to do any more is a mistake. We must recognize that we are partners with our lobbyists and we must do more together to achieve success.

If there is one thing dealers and, for that matter, most of our manufacturers have in common, it’s that we have far less ability than the big corporations and industries to politically affect what happens to us, particularly on the federal level. But we are not powerless. Standing up as a united group, looking past competitive issues, to accomplish something that’s greater for our industry is exactly what an event like the American Boating Congress is all about.

Previously, I’ve urged dealers to attend the ABC and I do so again. I recognize there is a cost to going to Washington, but it’s properly viewed as an investment in your business. This year’s lineup of speakers sets a new benchmark and the issues are compelling. Click here for registration details.

Special webinar set for today

If going to ABC is just not possible, the need for you to “lobby” for the industry and your business is still there. Every dealer should be committed to lobbying their elected members of Congress by using email and/or the phone to advance industry positions.

Frankly, the invention of email has made it incredibly easy to lobby. I do it regularly and I get responses back.

Today, you can be briefed on the issues that will be prominent at ABC by simply attending a special webinar briefing for those going to Washington. You don’t have to be going to ABC to attend to the webinar. It’s free and easy. But it happens today, from 2-3 p.m. EDT. Register for the webinar by going to ABC's preparation webinar



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